My clients often tell me that they can picture the life they want to live but struggle to make the changes needed to get to that place, while still managing their full-time job/family care/social life/extra-curricular obligations/all of the above.
My usual response is that we cannot expect change overnight, and we cannot expect our minds to latch onto a completely new daily routine in a short period of time. Our brains are programmed to like to revert to things that are familiar. Think about driving home from work - how many times have you arrived home without even remembering the route? That's your brain on autopilot, going to the familiar. Our brains like to take shortcuts, to help us do more and faster - a constant demand in our ever-moving world.
This helps a lot in making us highly efficient and able to juggle multiple responsibilities at once - something we all need! But it means that it can take a while for our brains to latch onto change.
My best recommendation to carve out the life you want is with small - and I mean small - changes, repeated for a period of at least 21 days to allow them the chance to become habits. Once habitual, your brain will see them as familiar and they will no longer be behaviours you have to focus on!
Here are 7 really small changes that might appeal in getting you to where you want to be! Try the ones you want for a period of 21 days and see where you are at a few months down the road. You may surprise yourself!
- Wake up 5 minutes earlier than usual. If you are trying to become more of a morning person, or give yourself the chance to not start your day so rushed, consider setting your alarm just five minutes earlier. Doing this for three weeks will give your body the chance to adjust and maybe even go to bed earlier the night before - so if you want to keep setting it five minutes earlier after your 21 days, you can work up to eventually waking up 30 minutes early to get some journalling, reading or workout time in before your busy day calls.
- Choose one meal with vegetables first. When thinking about what to have for lunch or dinner we often think of the starch or the protein first. A sandwich, chicken breasts, pasta. What about building your meal around a vegetable? Try it just once a week. Lettuce might mean a big salad for lunch, and broccoli might have you thinking of a stirfry for dinner. Sweet potatoes might cause you to consider a stuffed sweet potato and tomato might mean you enjoy a bowl of soup for lunch instead. It's just an easy way to work more veggies into your diet and to change the way you approach your meal planning!
- Walk 250 steps each hour of your work day. If you don't use a fitness tracker, this is going for a 2.5 to 3-minute walk each hour - set a reminder on your work calendar and get moving! It's just a few minutes (if you are in a meeting, try a five- to six-minute walk the next hour to make up for it) and it'll give you an extra 2,000 steps before you have even got home from work!
- Do a five-minute stretch before bed or when waking. I wake up sometimes with a stiff neck, and if I don't stretch it out and instead go straight to work, it's almost always worse by the end of the day. It was so simple to stretch as soon as I was up but it wasn't until I made it a habit that I finally did it, and reaped the benefits! Others may find the day leaves them feeling a bit stiff and sore, so try a gentle stretch before bed instead.
- Write a list before bed. I suggest a gratitude list as I think they are a nice way to end your day, but I realize this concept doesn't always appeal to everyone. If it feels forced to you, try instead to write a list of five lessons you learned today, five things that made you happy today, or five people you want to send positive vibes to before bed (and always remember that one of them can be you!).
- Listen to a song. Whether it's on the way to work or while you shower, as you are getting dressed in the morning or before heading to bed at night, music has the amazing ability to transform our mood so turn on a tune that cheers you up - it might just make your day.
- Put $1 aside. Whether you do this daily, or weekly ($7 a week!) or even monthly ($28) - putting just a small amount aside each day won't make a difference to your wallet, but when you go to treat yourself every few months you'll have close to $100 to do it with, allowing you to truly enjoy that massage or shopping spree or meal out without having to put any financial strain on yourself.
What are some of the small changes you have made in your life that have added up to lasting improvements? Leave a comment or share this post on social media to inspire your friends.